By Asmita Sarkar:
As of now 25 students have been hospitalised due to a hunger strike that is going on in a tribal hostel in Maharashtra, and yet there has been no media coverage on this.
On April 1st, 2015, on returning from their respective schools and colleges, residents of a government hostel for tribal students found a notice saying that the hostel needs to be vacated in two weeks. What the students of the tribal hostel, situated in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, thought to be a joke turned into a nightmare for them on 15th April 2015. 192 men who were living in the Kolavde hostel, which was rented by the Tribal Department, were shifted into the Pavel hostel for tribal boys, a government building, due to the pending rent. The building had a far lesser capacity than the 500 bedded Kolavde hostel. The women in the tribal ‘hostel’ in Sukarpur, a chawl with 5 rooms, have had to go through worse i.e. 125 women had been crammed into 5 rooms, when each room has a capacity of only 5. The list of infrastructural issues in the tribal hostels, which house students from school to college, ranges from inedible food to verbally abusive wardens in women’s hostel. However, the tribal students, believing in the efficacy of the government in redressing their issues, have been diligently complaining to wardens, officials, and all possible authorities. The cycle of complaints, though, has been a Sisyphean task for them.
Agitated and unable to tolerate the infrastructural failures of the hotels anymore 2000 residents of various tribal hostels in the area had staged a protest on August 2nd. The students, on August 21st, tried to reach out to the Tribal Development Officer, Ranjana Dabhade, but she made herself scarce and instead contacted the police and district collector, according to a report. The DSP, on arrival, met the students and had a peaceful conversation with them. However they were later informed that a FIR against the 9 leading protestors had been filed under Section 341, 141,147,149 and 506 of the IPC. Incensed with the response, a hunger strike began on August 31st outside the Pavel hostel, in which more than 200 residents participated and is still going on.
According to the students, government policy lists the facilities that they are entitled to along with the residential facility such as computers, library, a dining hall and a TV set, and it is these already listed provisions that they have been demanding. However, the behaviour met out to them by the government will not only leave a scar on them but also be a discouragement for those who are from remote villages and have been working hard to be able to get admission in colleges and schools miles away from their home for a better education.
The article is based on a report filed by Radical Study Circle, TISS, Mumbai, Samta Vidyarthi Aghadi Govandi, Mumbai and Ambedkar Periyar Phule study Circle- IIT Mumbai.